A hard-hitting film aimed at protecting vulnerable children from becoming involved in the drugs trade is to be made by an award-winning TV director with £10,000 of cash confiscated from criminals in North Wales.
The video intended for use in schools and across the community will be made by the charity the Colwyn Bay-based Centre for Sign Sight Sound (COSSS) in three languages – English, Welsh and Sign – and will use young actors from North Wales.
It is being directed by John Evans, a former soldier and Holyhead police officer, who left the police to study film at Bangor University and has worked in television since.
John has since won Royal Television Society and other awards and his work has featured on BBC Three and on S4C where his first documentary Cysgod Rhyfel (The Shadow of War) highlighted the issues faced by four former soldiers who suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The new video aims to show how vulnerable children aged from nine to 13 can be drawn into a life of crime through County Lines, the criminal network of drugs gangs operating across North Wales from big cities and recruiting young people as couriers.
The grant comes from a special fund distributed by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones from a pot which this year totals a record £61,901 with two major donations dedicated to fighting the County Lines menace.
The Your Community, Your Choice initiative is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT) which is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year.
The money for the awards came partly from money seized by the courts through the Proceeds of Crime Act with the rest from the Police Commissioner’s Fund.
Each of the region’s six counties have up to £2,500 apiece for two groups with £5,000 each for two organisations that operate in three or more counties.
In addition this year, thanks to additional funding from the police and crime commissioner and North Wales Police, there are two new grants of £10,000.
The larger grants are designed to fund projects addressing issues related to the emerging threat of County Lines, where young people are being coerced and threatened with violence to take part in illegal activity across the region.
Around 15,000 votes were cast in an online poll to decide which of the community schemes received support, with the cheque presentation to 19 successful applicants at North Wales Police headquarters in Colwyn Bay.
The film by Colwyn Bay-based COSSS is directed by their Media and Communications Manager John Evans.
They have worked closely with North Wales Police and its school liaison officers to make the film and John said: “This film is aimed at young people including the disabled who are at risk if being recruited and also at their friends, parents and relatives.
“We have used actors who speak English and Welsh with a North Wales accent so it is more relevant and reflects the peer group these children are part of and also with adults and children who use British Sign Language.
“It is also important to work with North Wales Police because they are the experts in this field and it has to be authentic and show the reality of what life is like in North Wales.
“The second a child understands they are doing something wrong there is a tendency to cover it up but if we can highlight the fact that they are very much the victims of this crime.
“We’re very grateful to the Police and Crime Commissioner for making this funding available because if it has an impact on one child then that’s a child that can be saved and you can’t put a price on that.”
The short high impact trilingual film is part of a one-hour workshop on the theme of ‘County Lines’ for use in schools with Year Seven, Eight and Nine pupils as part of Personal Social Education curriculum and be delivered by School Community Police Officers (SCPOs) available on www.schoolbeat.org .
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, who jointly presented the awards with new Assistant Chief Constable Sacha Hatchett, said: “I am delighted that my Your Community Your Choice fund continues to support community projects across north Wales for a seventh consecutive year.
“This unique fund allows our communities to decide which projects should get financial support through our on-line voting system and the response has seen almost 15,000 members of the public vote for a total of 30 projects.
“These projects help to support my Police and Crime Plan whose purpose is to ensure that North Wales Police is paying specific attention to those points which have been identified as crucial by the public, me and indeed by the force itself.
“Many of you will be aware of the recent Third Sector consultation that I carried out which has resulted in an update to my priorities to include the ways in which we address emerging trends including Organised Crime and the exploitation of vulnerable people.
“As part of this I aim to ensure that a clear focus continues around county lines crimes – a particularly vicious form of criminality that exploits young vulnerable people into a life of crime which is extremely dangerous and violent and from which there is little escape.
“I am delighted to see that a number of your applications aim to address this issue and support our young people.
“Community groups are vital to the citizens of north Wales, and in helping to ensure that our communities continue to be some of the safest places to live, work and visit in the UK.”
Sacha Hatchett said: “This money includes cash from assets seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This is a particularly vital message as through the professionalism of North Wales Police Officers and with the support of the Courts, we are able to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their pockets.
“Our operations target all types of serious criminality including cross border crime, armed robbery, criminal use of firearms as well as drug production, importation and supply.
“Those who are involved in serious and organised crime often live well beyond their means, drive expensive cars, live in large houses and frequently holiday abroad; they may well be living lifestyles on the proceeds of crime.
“Our communities continue to play a part in this success with local intelligence information given to our officers that help us to bring these criminals to justice.
“It sends a really positive message that money taken from the pockets of criminals is being recycled. This is turning bad money into good that’s being used for a constructive purpose.”
Representatives of COSSS receive their Your Community Your Choice award at North Wales Police Headquarters, from left, Assistant Chief Constable Sacha Hatchett, Sarah Thomas and John Evans with North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones.